- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

MONTREAL | Eric Fehr has spent years trying to overcome injuries, but now he is benefiting from them - and proving he can be a consistent scorer at the sport’s highest level.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the lone goal in the shootout to help the Washington Capitals defeat the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 on Saturday night at Bell Centre, but not before Fehr first saved them in regulation with his second goal of the night.

“Eric is the kind of guy that gets down on himself or he has confidence - one of the two things,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think right now he’s going pretty good and he’s got some goals and he’s feeling confident in the way he’s playing. He’s getting more ice time because of it, and when he does that he’ll get more goals.”

A Travis Moen power-play goal appeared be the winner, but Fehr backhanded a rebound through Montreal goalie Carey Price’s legs with 11.4 seconds left in regulation.

Fehr’s sixth of the season came 4.1 seconds after the Caps had called timeout. It was a six-on-four tally with the goaltender pulled and Paul Mara in the penalty box for Montreal. Fehr was one of five forwards Boudreau put on the ice.

“My job was just to go to the net and pick up any garbage,” Fehr said as he sported the Caps’ red hard hat, which is given to the player whose hard work helps the team win. “[Alex Ovechkin] got a good shot off, and I just took a whack at an area and it went in.”

A first-round pick in 2003, Fehr has proved he can be a prolific producer at the junior and American Hockey League level, but multiple injuries have held him back from earning a prominent role with the Caps. His most recent obstacles were labrum surgery on both shoulders last offseason and a rib injury in late October.

Since returning Nov. 7, Fehr has five goals and eight points in 10 games, and he is getting regular shifts on the second line with Alexander Semin and Mike Knuble out of the lineup.

“I feel a lot better. I’ve had an opportunity to get more ice time here with the injuries,” Fehr said. “Hopefully, I can keep going and keep producing to try and earn my spot on the top two lines.”

Added forward Matt Bradley: “He comes from junior as a very highly touted scorer, so obviously he can do it. He just needs to stay healthy long enough to do it. He’s shown in the last little while that he can score at this level.”

The Caps killed off a lengthy two-man advantage for Montreal, but Moen tipped defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron’s shot from the top of the offensive zone past Semyon Varlamov before the second penalty expired 5:34 into the final period.

Moen’s tally was the ninth power-play goal this season yielded by Washington in the third period that either tied the contest or put the Caps behind.

Washington had forged a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes before the Canadiens rallied. Fehr put the Caps in front when he redirected a shot by Karl Alzner from the left point at 8:47 of the opening period.

“When Eric is going to the net and with reckless abandon, then he is really good,” Boudreau said. “On both goals, he gets the tip and he gets the rebound - that’s when I know he’s playing with a little bit of confidence and he’s playing like I’ve known him to play in the American League.

“When he plays on the perimeter and just hopes his shots go in, he’s not as effective.”

Ovechkin made it 2-0 on the team’s next shot on goal. Backstrom slipped him a pass just after they passed the blue line on a three-on-two rush, and Ovechkin ripped one into the top left corner. It was his 18th of the season and fourth in six games since missing six with a strain near his left shoulder.

While the Caps could not crack Price in the middle 20 minutes, the Canadiens pulled even on goals by Jaroslav Spacek and Tomas Plekanec. Spacek’s tally came at 5:40 and just four seconds before Jay Beagle was set to leave the penalty box. Plekanec’s marker came after a wild scramble in front of Varlamov at 13:50.

The Caps have had a penchant for dropping games after building a lead this season, but Fehr’s late goal kept them from another troubling defeat.

“We started strong, but for whatever reason we’re not playing a full 60 minutes,” Bradley said. “They played a great game, especially in the second half, and we were lucky to get out of here with a win.”

• Corey Masisak can be reached at cmasisak@washingtontimes.com.

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